The advantages of a metacognitive approach to practice

Updated: Jan 18

After a few months teaching at WKMT, I had the chance to work with several different students, in a lively and vibrant environment. When teaching, it is my first concern to give the students the right tools, in order to facilitate their individual and daily practice at home. In a nutshell, what I constantly try to do, is encouraging a metacognitive approach to practice -based on self-awareness- that could help the students to use their practice time more constructively. During my multi-year academic studies, I had the chance to investigate this topic thoroughly. In fact, one of my latest research paper regards the learning and memorisation processes in piano performance. I personally find it very handy and enlightening sharing here a little abstract:

“[…] In learning a new piece four stages of practising were identified by Chaffin (2002): a) the ‘big picture’ overview of the work, b) technical practice to achieve automation and memorisation, c) polishing the piece up for a performance, d) maintenance of the piece. To implement these four stages in individual practice is possible, for example, to include activities such as listening to a recording or teacher performance of the work prior to learning to identify the basic character, as well as the possible difficulties; identifying repetitions and slow practice to overcome technical problems; considering articulation and dynamics in developing the interpretation and playing the piece through in preparation for a performance. It goes without saying that the most important skill that can be taught by an instrumental music teacher is how to practise. Several studies which I have been analysing, point out the fact that even high-level music students, who spend many hours every week practising alone, still need to be taught how to use this time constructively; so the quality of practice prevails over the quantity. Effective practice seems to include a number of learning strategies, such as practising at a slow tempo, gradually increasing the speed using the metronome, silent practice (away from the instrument), respecting the right rhythm, identifying trouble sections and analysing the music, repeating a difficult passage many times until mastery is achieved. A study by Hallam (1997) argues the benefits of metacognition¹ when practising. Hallam (1997) found that effective practice depends on the level of expertise acquired, with novice students using low level practising strategies, such as repeating the piece several times from the beginning to the end without stopping to practise sections that need improvement, and leaving errors uncorrected during most of the practice. On the other hand experts use high level practising strategies, such as playing through the work to identify difficult passages and then isolating these for further practice. A metacognitive approach to practice has to be demonstrated by teachers during lessons, for instance by giving an overview of the work, identifying difficulties, providing appropriate strategies, integrating sections into the whole work, developing a monitoring progress by setting goals and evaluating progress […]”.

(From Learning and Memorisation in Piano Performance. How can we develop a higher level of expertise? A. Losciale 25/04/16 - Mmus Specialist Option ‘Applied Psychology for Performers’).

References for this abstract:

Chaffin, R., Imreh, G., & Crawford, M. (2002). Practicing perfection: Memory and piano performance. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum Associates.

Hallam, S., 1997. The development of memorisation strategies in musicians: Implications for education. British Journal of Music Education, 14(01), pp.87-97.

#pianoteachers #Pianoteachers #pianoteachersLondon #pianoteacherlondon #PianoteachersLondon #AntonioLosciale

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